Sunday, January 2, 2011

Feral Cat Report

I have never been a proponent of allowing cats to roam outside. Just as we keep our dogs either in a fenced yard or on a leash, cats should be protected from injury and disease by their owners. Since it is hard to keep a cat in the yard (although I do know a couple of people who have installed special fencing for this purpose), I keep my cats in the house all the time.

There are a number of feral cat colonies in Wichita Falls and generally the attitude is to leave them be. Recently, the city has moved to licensing feral cat colonies, which involved insuring the cats are captured, spayed/neutered, and given shots. Although this is a humane way to gradually reduce the colony, providing enough cats can be caught and sterilized, there are still a lot of environmental consequences to groups of feral cats, not to mention most of these cats are diseased and don't get enough to eat. For those who feed feral cats, get a pet cat and keep it in instead of encouraging the survival/increase of the feral cat population.

Recently, the University of Nebraska released a report on the impact of feral cats--it's not a pretty picture. Although portions of the report discuss Nebraska laws and regulations, most of the report is applicable to other areas as well. The portion of the report concerning control of feral cats will certainly be disturbing to many of my pet-loving friends, just as euthanasia of unwanted pets is offensive. All I can say is that we need to change the attitude of our society toward pets and animals overall.

I think cats are the perfect pet, but responsible pet ownership is key.


  1. Hi Penny,
    I disagree with your contention that most feral cats are diseased. I don't know what data you base this on, but in my experience, and the studies I've seen (Levy), spay/neutered feral cat colonies are no more diseased than the population of housepets.
    Having cats living outdoors is not what anyone wants - but the fact is, it's what's possible.
    Traditional complaint-based sporadic removals and euthanasia, which the public will generally not support (ie pay for) are what have resulted in the scenario we have today - a growing feral cat population. The people who spay/neuter ferals are volunteers and exist in numbers larger than any municipal animal control. What they're willing to spend their own time and money to do is TNR.

  2. Thanks for responding to this post.

    I agree that spay and neutering colonies is better than nothing and if the number of cats spayed/neutered and vaccinated is sufficiently high, then there is some population control and better health in those colonies.

    When feral cats are properly vaccinated, many diseases can be decreased, but most of the feral cats I have seen have not been in a properly cared for colony. I have adopted many feral (but friendly) cats and they were without exception infested with fleas and sometimes ticks, worms and often had respiratory diseases, eye infections and skin problems. One had gangrenous tissue in the tail that had to be amputated.

    I applaud those volunteers who try to ensure feral cats are cared for, but on the whole, I think my premises are accurate and are supported by every study I have seen (note the one cited in this blog post for an example.) Most feral cats are not blessed to live in colonies that are properly cared for.

    Regardless, feral cats do have a lesser life span and do have a disastrous impact on wildlife, so I still believe cats should be kept inside or monitored and controlled if outside. For those reasons, I do not think we should encourage feral cat colonies. However, given that there is not public support to remove feral cat colonies, if those colonies were properly cared for, I would be reasonably content as (in theory) populations would be reduced over time.

    When I was growing up, feral dog packs were common. But people came to the realization this was not responsible ownership. I am hoping we will be at the same place in cat ownership sometime in the near future.

    If you are one of the people who properly care for feral cats, then I applaud you and your efforts, but there are not enough people like you.